Updates from the Autism Spectrum – October 2015 Café


Is Autism on the rise, in the US and throughout the world? Maybe. Or is it something we are seeing more often today because medical science is getting better at diagnosing autism, and we are getting better at recognizing its many shades? Very likely. Is there really an epidemic of autism, as some, including a Presidential candidate or two, keep insisting? Probably not. Is there any link between vaccines and autism? NO. None, according to the best and most large-scale studies conducted till date. Is Autism really one disorder? No. It is better to think about autism as a spectrum of neurodevelopment disorders in how human brains work. And as we are discovering, the range of autistic brains is part of a broader spectrum of how diverse human brains are. Perhaps it is our growing awareness of this neurodiversity which is helping us appreciate the number of people on the autism spectrum and pushing our interpretations past the category of “disorder”, as described beautifully in Steve Silberman’s new bestseller Neurotribes.

Join us this October as Fresno State Neuropsychologist Dr. Amanda Mortimer brings us up to date with current scientific understanding of the autism spectrum. She will share how neurobiology and psychology shed light on the mechanisms through which autism manifests itself, its consequences for behavior, and applied behavioral analysis strategies to enable autistic individuals to function in “normal” society which is still struggling to accommodate neurodiversity. An old friend to the Central Valley Café Scientifique, Dr. Mortimer spoke a few years ago about her research on Dementia.

Dr. Mortimer touched on some of these topics when interviewed for the last episode (22 Sep 2015) of our radio show “Science: A Candle In The Dark“. Have a listen to the archived show via the #ScienceCandle podcast. And join us at Peeve’s Pub on October 5th for another informative Café Scientifique. See you there!

When: Monday, 5 October 2015, 7:00 PM

Where: Peeve’s Public House
, 1243 Fulton Mall, Fresno, CA 93721

Contact: 559-278-2460 (cafe inquiries) / 559-573-5735 (Pub’s number)

Here’s the full poster for this event – please feel free to download, print, and/or share with your friends and family:

7: Fear and Learning in Science & Mathematics – Science: A Candle In The Dark

Group of Freshman students on Fresno State campus

Students from the incoming Freshman class of Science & Maths majors at Fresno State. Photo by Cary Edmondson, the official University Photographer.

Science: A Candle In The Dark
Episode 7: Fear and Learning in Science & Mathematics
25 August
Host: Dr. Madhusudan Katti
Guests: Dr. Amanda Mortimer and Dr. Beth Weinman.

Topic: Are you afraid of science? Do you suffer from Maths Anxiety? And are you transferring some of these fears to your children, even as you are anxious for them to do well in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) disciplines? In this episode, neuropsychologist Dr. Amanda Mortimer from Fresno State helps us develop a better scientific understanding of how fear and anxiety affect our ability to learn and remember things, and what are good ways to address the anxiety triggered for so many by science and mathematics. Dr. Beth Weinman discusses how some of this developing understanding of learning and memory is being applied to improve the success of incoming Science majors in a new First Year Experience program in Fresno State’s College of Science & Mathematics. The program (in which Dr. Katti is a collaborator) is particularly focused on helping students who are from economically challenging backgrounds, from under-represented minorities, or are the first generation from their families to ever go to college – demographics which constitute the majority of students on our campus and indeed in the Central Valley. A better understanding of how the mind works for optimal learning should help these students break patterns of anxiety about learning science and mathematics which have held them back, and go some way towards addressing the leaky pipeline in developing a new generation of diverse scientists and science-literate citizens.

Have a listen, and do share any thoughts you might have about your perception of science and learning.